#0009 Let’s get personal; I’ll go first.
I want to begin transitioning the BLOG into more of a conversational forum which I hope will inspire and encourage people to submit their thoughts and ideas using the comments box at the bottom of each posting. A good place to start, I guess is with my own story beginning with my conversion experience in 1970. I was born and raised Catholic—meaning I attended Catholic Schools throughout my childhood (with the exception of Kindergarten and 6th grade). Within the very 1st year following my graduation in 1969, I had some experiences that wound me up in a situation I never-ever could have anticipated. It happened at the end of my tenure of education at Catholic School, but no amount of schooling could have prepared me for it. I had an encounter with God. Here’s the story. In my senior year I began running with kids from another (public) school. The year was 1969 and the Beatles had been experimenting with pot and acid for some time by then. Being big fans of theirs and having been caught up into the underground music movement in a big way; the allure of 1969 pop culture seemed to be beckoning to me. I and my immediate group of friends were mostly into smoking marijuana and listening to music with headphones and striving to immerse ourselves in the kind of lifestyle befitting that image. Midsummer of that year, I heard some friends of my friends talking about hitchhiking to upstate New York for a big music festival name of Woodstock. I didn’t go to it but I did get into dealing pot that summer. In this I was successful to the point of bankrolling enough for ½ of the down payment and 1st month’s rent (going in with another fellow) for an apartment downtown—we called it the Cockroach Farm. Thinking about it now; the 1st 6-9 months following my graduation were pretty enigmatic and weird.
Skipping ahead to winter, we had lost the downtown apartment, no big loss and were looking for regular jobs and another place to live. It was just after the Christmas season (1969/70) and my roommate from the Cockroach Farm, Ed had moved back in with his family who lived in a big house in the country. He found out that his whole family was getting ready to take off on a vacation excursion someplace which meant he would have the house to himself and I could come out and stay there while they were away. Over Christmas I had been with my family in Detroit and at a New Year’s Eve party I visited with a cousin and her husband (who were also came over from GR for the holidays) and during the course of our conversation, my cousin’s husband offered me a job.
It was during this period at the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970 that I started taking some personal inventory, holding up some of my life-long hopes and dreams against the pale backdrop of my current circumstances. After high school my mom had always wanted me to go on to college to study engineering or something and since my freshman year I’d taken all the college prep courses so i could do just that; but since I started smoking pot, my perspectives had changed. At that time I was feeling kind of lost to myself in a manner of speaking. I wasn’t addicted to drugs, I was mostly just smoking pot but just the same, my goals and aspirations seemed to have diminished to something less than impressive. I wanted a good stereo to play my albums on; I wanted a good supply of pot for my own use and to sell, and I wanted a car that ran okay and was easy to work on—that was about it. My attitude about things seemed to be in flux; I seemed to get irritated easily and was mildly angry about people and situations around me. It seemed like I was feeling like this more and more often—I didn’t want this! So I woke up one morning and decided to make a concerted effort to change my attitude and my outlook on life; I was going to be positive about things and people I would see. I figured that, even though I had no permanent dwelling place yet, I could at least work this positive attitude thing and hopefully, doing so would help me feel better about my life. At the same time I resolved to stop smoking pot, at least for a while. It was about this same time that I started the job with my cousin’s husband (driving hi lo in a warehouse downtown) and Ed had landed a job in the city too. When I first moved in to stay at Ed’s parents place, I had shared my new positive attitude aspirations with him and he thought it would be something he too would like to try. This attitude experiment was taking place pretty much over the span of a single week and within that time I had a new development immerge, I began to pray to God—at first for help in being positive and not smoking pot—but shortly into the campaign, I found myself praying that He would help me find Him and to find His Church. I’ve thought since that this almost involuntary reflex to pray to God in the face of adversity must come out of my overly-extensive Catholic training. A little aside: Ed was also raised Catholic.
It was Friday and we had made it through the 1st week at our new jobs. When I got home from work Ed wasn’t there yet, which was no big deal; but when he didn’t show and didn’t show I started to get a little concerned. Around 7:30 or so a strange car pulled in the driveway and Ed got out of the passenger side, It was Bobby, a friend; who had evidently given him a ride home. Two girls also exited the car and they all came up to the house. Once inside Ed told me he had had car trouble so he called Bob to come and pick him up at work. What I learned shortly was that Bob was selling acid and all 4 of them had dropped some in the car on the way.
When they came in I had been sitting in the living room, listening to Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog album; which was still playing when they came in. Ed and I had been listening to that album quite a bit in the past week and we’d become quite intrigued by it…especially the title track. We shared the opinion that the lyrics (and the music, if that’s possible) seemed to depict our (humans’) time on earth as a sea voyage sailing towards heaven. This kind of stuff had been much in our thoughts; this song, in particular seemed to have been sustaining us in our quest toward positive attitudes throughout the week…until now.
A Salty Dog
All hands on deck, we’ve run a float,
I heard the Captain cry.
Explore the ship, replace the cook,
Let no one leave alive.
Across the straits, around the horn,
How far can sailors fly?
A twisted path, our tortured course,
And no one left alive.
We sailed for parts unknown to man,
Where ships come home to die.
No lofty peak, nor fortress bold,
Could match our captain’s eye.
Upon the seventh seasick day,
We made our port of call.
A sand so white, and sea so blue,
No mortal place at all.
We fired the guns, and burned the mast,
And rowed from ship to shore.
The captain cried, we sailors wept,
Our tears were tears of joy!
Now many moons and many Junes,
Have passed since we made land.
A Salty Dog, the seaman’s log,
Your witness, my own hand.
lyrics by Keith Reid, music by Gary Brooker
Everyone came into the living room where the music was and found places to sit…I kept spinning the music. All of them were tripping, so there was zero conversation going on to compete with the music. Being the only one in the room still in possession of their mental capacities, I played the role of DJ: when the album finished playing—I didn’t say anything—I just got up and started it over again; and again; and again. This went on for some indeterminate period of time (especially for those on acid). Eventually, Ed got up from the couch, started whistling and went into the kitchen and began washing the dishes that’d been accumulating in the sink over the past week. Five or ten minutes later he comes back into the living room, walks over to the stereo and turned it down; turns to everyone and with a big happy face says, “I’m sorry, but you’re all gonna have to leave!” Bobby, when it registers with him what’s going on, starts freaking and saying something to effect of, “I can’t leave—I’ll die!” Ed pays no attention to this and keeps physically helping him out the door. Once they’ve left, Ed comes back into the house and starts to explain that something strange and wonderful has happened…and is still happening to him. He explains that while he was sitting on the couch he started to feel bad about being stoned. Bobby was sitting across from him and was wearing Ed’s mirrored sunglasses (remember, now, they’re tripping on acid). Sitting opposite Bobby, Ed sees his own face in the mirrors of the sunglasses—then it seems to him as if he’s looking at himself sitting there across from himself. At this point he becomes exceptionally remorseful and he begins to pray silently for God to forgive him and for Him to please take away the influence of the acid from his mind. This didn’t happen to me, so I can only report what Ed told me was happening to him while it was happening. And, as he continued with his story, we returned to the kitchen where Ed resumed his great task of washing, drying and putting away the dishes. (To be continued in Wednesday’s BLOG.)